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Go Organic with Worm Poop

Posted on August 31, 2016 by | Comments Off

My 5-year-old LOVES worms. She is scared to death of most creepy crawly things, spiders in particular, but she practically turns the worms in our yard into pets. They come second only to roly polys. I get it. There is just something about digging around in the dirt and discovering little critters that is so enjoyable and satisfying. Turns out this love of worms also runs on my husband’s side of the family, because I recently discovered his grandmother has her own “pet worms”, or worm farm as she more aptly describes.

Marj and her worms.

Marj and her worms.

 

Vermicompost!

Vermicompost!

Marj’s worm farm is all the way in Australia, but we visited my in-laws earlier this year so we had a chance to check out her worms for ourselves. Over the years Marj has turned most of her yard into an organic garden full of gorgeous flowers and tasty fruits and veggies. It puts my backyard to shame. Really it would put anyone’s yard to shame, so I should have known right away that she was onto something when she started talking about worms. Unlike my 5-year-old who simply enjoys collecting and talking to worms, Marj puts them to work.

Worms are great decomposers, and what needs decomposers? OK that’s a trick question, technically worms are detrivores and EVERYTHING needs decomposers and detrivores. They do super important work – remember the food web you learned in grade school – Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers? Producers are plants that make food with the energy from the sun and are eaten by the Consumers (herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores). Whenever anything dies or is pooped out, the decomposers break down the nutrients and return it to the soil to be used by more Producers. Does anyone else hear the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King in your head right now?

Worms at work in Hampton Roads.

Worms at work in Hampton Roads.

OK that is grossly simplified but back to my original question…COMPOST needs decomposers! Decomposers break down organic materials (like kitchen scraps) into more stable and non-smelly compost that is full of nutrients and can be used as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Microorganisms are also decomposers, but worm composting, or vermicomposting, can get it done faster than microorganisms alone. Instead of throwing your organic material into a compost pile or bin, you feed them to your pet worms and after happily feasting on your leftovers and lawn trimmings, they do what we all do. They poop. But this isn’t just any poop. The material that passes through the gut of a worm is called a worm casting, and according to Moose Hill Worm Farm, worm castings are made up of bacteria, enzymes, remnants of plant matter, and animal manure that create water-soluble plant nutrients that contain more than 50% more humus than what is normally found in topsoil. And get this – worms can process their body weight in food each day, so a pound of worms can process a pound of kitchen scraps EACH DAY. Not only are you keeping kitchen and yard waste out of landfills, you are performing the ULTIMATE type of recycling: turning waste into a resource!

Here are a few resources and tips to get you started:

1. For information on how to make your own vermicompost and care for your worms visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Vermicomposting site.

2. The Norfolk Botanical Garden offers Worm Composting workshops where you can get everything you need to make your worm bin – including the worms!

3. Moose Hill Worm Farm in Gloucester sells worm castings and has a blog with information and tips on how to use worm castings.

4. Worms do not do well in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure to keep your worm bin in a shady spot during our hot summer months.

5. In addition to the worm castings, you can also get a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer by draining your worm bin into a bucket.

Posted in: Gardening, Going Green, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Enter to Win Free Soil Testing!

Posted on July 8, 2016 by | Comments Off

Free-Soil-Testing-July16Become a Bay Star Home in July and Win!

During the month of July, any family that signs up to become a Bay Star Home will be automatically entered to win one of 75 free soil tests! Soil testing is the only way to know whether or not your lawn really needs chemical fertilizers. And when you accidentally apply unneeded fertilizer to your yard, you contribute to local water pollution. Also, as part of your pledge to become a Bay Star Home, you’ll receive a welcome packet that includes great tips from askHRgreen.org, local information from your city or county, and a garden flag or other gift in recognition of your commitment to a cleaner Hampton Roads. Get started now!

Posted in: Gardening, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Waterways

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Butterfly Garden opens at Bennett’s Creek Park

Posted on April 19, 2016 by | Comments Off

 IMG_0331It’s that time of year to get outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather. For those of us who love to garden the season has already frantically begun. So much to do and so little time!!! For our local butterfly expert, Deb Cady – Master Gardener and a Director of The Butterfly Society of Virginia, it means the start of butterfly season. Deb raises many varieties of butterflies and releases them in various gardens around town including her own in north Suffolk, where she has transformed her garden into a butterfly haven. This year however, there is a new location she plans to release and establish a thriving butterfly community and that’s the new Butterfly Garden at Bennett’s Creek Park. Deb and a small team of Suffolk Master Gardeners teamed up with Keep Suffolk Beautiful and Suffolk Parks and Recreation to install a small butterfly garden next to the children’s playground and they plan to open it for Earth Day on April 23rd at 11am. Deb is leading the installation of the garden which started on April 11th and will be completed the following week. Deb says, “There will be 70 plants for butterflies to enjoy and we hope that when people see the garden in bloom they will be inspired to plant their own host plants in their own yards and help to increase butterfly populations in the area.” Last year Deb reared more than 1,000 butterflies and about 500 were Monarchs. The Monarchs are a butterfly species suffering from massive population decrease due to loss of habitat and are a conservation priority for the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

IMG_0324Deb and Keep Suffolk Beautiful are inviting people of all ages to come out and see the garden in its infancy and learn about the wonderful world of butterflies. Suffolk Public Libraries and the Suffolk Art Gallery will be joining us to celebrate the garden and Earth Day with story-time, arts and crafts and an amazing face painter. We also have free tickets to give away to the Virginia Beach Aquarium, the Virginia Zoo and the Virginia Living Museum. The opening is from 11am to 1pm on April 23rd at Bennetts Creek Park. Please come out and have an enjoyable two hours in the park for Earth Day.

Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

 

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, For educators, Gardening, Going Green, Lawn and landscape

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Chatting with the (Bay) Stars – Spring Edition

Posted on April 8, 2016 by | Comments Off

Do you compost your leaves and grass clippings? Have you had your soil tested? Do you keep fats, oils and grease out of the kitchen drain? If so, you are already doing your part for a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay. Take that commitment one step further by joining nearly 1,700 of your fellow Hampton Roads residents by becoming a Bay Star Home. Bay Star Home is a way to recognize you for doing the right things and helping you expand your environmental awareness by providing access to exclusive programs (offerings differ by locality).

monarch caterpillars-norfolk

Karen’s backyard habitat supports monarch butterflies!

We know our Bay Star Homes across the region are doing a lot of great things to protect our waterways. We love to share your stories, so today we invite you to meet Bay Star Homeowner Karen Cifranick of Norfolk. Karen told us a little bit about why she enlisted in the Bay Star Homes program and what she’s doing to make a difference in her community.

 

 

Why did you decide to become a Bay Star Home? Our household was already engaged in many of the recommended practices.

What is one easy tip that you have for others looking to “green up” their homes? Compost kitchen waste…it’s not as hard as it seems and there are many benefits.

Since becoming a Bay Star Home, are there any practices that you’ve changed at home? All the new plants in our flower beds are native and we make an effort to buy only local, in-season produce and Virginia products. 

Have any of your friends/neighbors joined the Bay Star Homes program since learning about it from you? Yes, several on my street and many more in our Bayview Civic League since I’m the Environmental Coordinator.

Have any of the Bay Star Homes tips helped you save time or money? Sure…reducing energy usage and conserving water for example.

Do you have any advice for someone who is just starting out with this program? Put reusable shopping bags in all of your vehicles, so no excuses when you get to the market and combine those trips to save fuel. Even now when fuel prices are low fuel consumption still has it’s environmental impacts and we need to find better alternatives to oil, coal and natural gas. 

rain barrel-norfolk

Karen’s new rain barrel!

Do you have any “green” projects planned for your home in the coming year? We will be using our new rain barrel that we received from the City of Norfolk as part of our participation in Bay Star Homes and looking into solar alternatives for heating our water. 

We want to hear from YOU! If you’d like to be featured on the Let’s Talk Green blog, please contact us at hrgreen@hrpdcva.gov for consideration in a future Chatting with the (Bay) Stars feature.

Posted in: Bay Star Homes Program, Beautification, Gardening, Going Green, Household tips, Lawncare, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Suffolk Farm Days

Posted on November 10, 2015 by | Comments Off

Suffolk_LacieAbout 1,200 second-grade students from Suffolk Public Schools recently got some hands-on experience at a farm.

Farm Days is a two-day hands-on farm experience that takes place at the Virginia Tech Research Extension Farm on Hare Road. “It’s a very good experience for the kids,” said Julie Moyer, science instructional specialist for the school system. “It’s their only field trip. The students look forward to it every year.”

The event has been held annually for 12 years and features several learning stations for children to rotate through. Some of the topics covered by the stations were the water cycle, pollution prevention, recycling, and animal care.

The City of Suffolk Public Works Engineering Department attended the event to help educate the children about the effects of litter and other pollutants on our waterways and wildlife. “The kids were great listeners and very compassionate when they were shown pictures of harmed wildlife,” remarked Wayne Jones, City of Suffolk Litter Control Coordinator, “one student said it made him feel mad that people litter and hurt the animals”. At Wayne’s station, the kids talked through the top 5 litter items found around the world including cigarette butts, food wrappers, bottle caps, plastic bottles, and drink straws. Afterwards the students put their skills to the test with a recycling knowledge game. The students were asked to distinguish between common items to figure out which of the items could be recycled. “It was very reassuring to hear so many of these children know what to and not to recycle” comments Wayne Jones.

The next station ran by Alacia Nixson, City of Suffolk Environmental Technician, focused on how pollutants affect our waterways. Using an Enviroscape, the students watched how our actions affect the Chesapeake Bay. An Enviroscape is a fun portable model that helps to visualize and better understand the sources and prevention of water pollution. Through this hands-on playful interaction the children discussed practical ways to prevent pollution at the source. 

“We were able to reach over 1,000 kids in two days!” says Kathy Russell, education coordinator for TFC recycling. “A key component to changing behaviors is teaching citizens, while they’re young, how to be environmentally responsible”.

Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!, Gardening, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Reduce reuse and recycle

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